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Issue Alert - 14-01-04

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Jan 15, 2014

Program Area:

All DHS public assistance programs

Issue Summary:

Changes have been made to the verification policy concerning the alien status subcategory, “refugee” and/or “victim of trafficking”

Persons Affected:

All applicants and recipients of DHS public assistance programs who may have “refugee” and/or “victim of trafficking” alien status

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice 326 S. Saginaw St Flint, MI 48502 (810) 244-8044, (800) 724-7441 Fax: (810) 244-5550 Email: Michigan Poverty Law Program 611 Church Street, Suite 4A Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3000 (734) 998-6100, Fax: (734) 998-9125


DHS determines the alien status of non-citizen applicants, as well as that of a new member applicant to an assistance group, at redetermination, and for reported changes.  Acceptable statuses for each program are listed in program policy, and as a threshold matter, frequently relates to whether the individual applicant or client meets the detailed definition of a “qualified alien.”  Certain statuses such as “refugee” and “victim of trafficking” fall within the category of a “qualified alien.” 

For victims of trafficking in particular, the US Department of Health and Human Services has an Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which issues letters of certification to those that qualify.  This is the only immigration document such an individual needs to obtain public assistance benefits.

What's Happening?

Effective January 1, 2014, DHS has added to the provisions related to the verification policy concerning the alien status subcategories, “refugee” and “victim of trafficking.” 

Refugees - According to the new sections of the policy on refugees, “permanent resident alien status” is indicated on (can be verified with) an I-94 document “annotated with INA section 203(a)(7) (prior to April 1, 1980), 207, 208, or 212(d)(5).” 

Trafficking Victims- According to the new sections of the policy, the status of “victim of trafficking” can be verified with both of the following:

·        An original ORR certification and/or eligibility letter, or for victims under age 18, an original eligibility letter from ORR (further document titles and descriptions are available exhibits nos. II and III, appended online); AND

·        Telephone contact with the ORR trafficking verification line (toll free, 866-401-5510) to verify the validity of these letters.

This updated policy is announced in Bridges Policy Bulletin BPB 2014-002, the Bulletin is available on p. 4 at:, and the policy itself is available at BEM 225 (see “redlined” sections): .



What Should Advocates Do?

1.      Learn the new verification provisions for “refugee” and “victim of trafficking” classifications, and help clients who fall into those categories apply for assistance, maintain assistance, and verify their status.  Inform organizations and groups that provide help to refugees or trafficking victims with this alert or other information about the changes.

2.      Refer clients to the Food Assistance Helpline at 800-481-4989 for questions about the Food Assistance Program. 

Help clients request an administrative hearing and find legal advice if they experience an adverse case action related to their alien or documented status.

What Should Clients Do?

1.      Seek an advocate if you are a non-citizen and are applying for public assistance or if your status changes. 

2.  Request an administrative hearing and seek legal advice if you have a problem with DHS because of your documented status.

3.  Food Assistance advocates are available to answer questions toll-free at 800-481-4989.


Finding Help

Most legal aid and legal services offices handle these types of cases, and they do not charge a fee. You can locate various sources of legal and related services, including the free legal aid office that serves your county, at You can also look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738.